Tag Archives: DVB

Nargis can’t be exaggerated

Among the many responses to the unconscionable blockading of humanitarian assistance to victims of the cyclone that swept through Burma on May 10, perhaps the strangest, if not the most offensive, have been claims that journalists, diplomats and aid workers have exaggerated the death toll.

These sorts of charges invariably come up when large numbers of people are killed, disappeared or displaced. They have their origins sometimes in misunderstanding of what really goes on during crises of this sort, sometimes in enmity towards human rights or humanitarian goals. In any case, that they have come up again in the wretched aftermath of Cyclone Nargis is particularly odd.

Take an article that David Rieff wrote for the Los Angeles Times (Save us from the rescuers, May 18). For Rieff, exaggerated reports are all about numbers. And not just high numbers for that matter, but pretty much any numbers. If the numbers jump up suddenly, he reasons, they’re suspect. But even if they don’t, they’re still suspect, because those who make them up are prone to hyperbole and have vested interests.

What Rieff omits is that those ultimately responsible for the making of numbers, those who are most prone to hyperbole and those with the biggest vested interests are not the relief agencies against whom he rails or their proponents but the national authorities who obstruct the making of accurate tallies with which to obtain a better picture of what needs to be done. Continue reading

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Sailors detained for abandoning ship mid-cyclone

(Latest roundup of some Burmese language news reports on Cyclone Nargis; photo: a Light Infantry Division 77 “refugee relief camp” in Kunchangone; source: The Irrawaddy)

There are all sorts of news reports coming from Burma speaking to the twisted priorities that characterise dictatorship. Apart from holding a referendum and chasing after the usual internal and external destructive elements, authorities in the delta have according to Yoma 3 detained sailors who left their docked ships at the height of the cyclone. The news service reports that the naval officers and seamen jumped ship at the Thilawar Pier during the storm, as they like others had not been adequately warned of its approach. An unnamed naval officer told Yoma 3 that,

“Twenty-three men from those on vessel duty at Thilawar, including officers, have been detained at the Irrawaddy Naval Headquarters. It’s understood that they’re to be charged with abandoning ship. I know that some of them have been kept under house arrest. In the fierce storm some went ashore and took to high ground. Some also disappeared. It’s not known if they disappeared in the water or if they deserted and didn’t send word.”

Yoma 3 says that eight naval craft sunk during the storm although there has been no official comment on this, which has reportedly caused disgruntlement in the navy. The lost vessels were stationed at the Irrawaddy, Pyapon and Bogalay bases, among others. It also says that around 3000 naval families are believed to have had their homes damaged or destroyed in the cyclone and so far there has been no systematic effort to start rebuilding them.

Meanwhile, while Burma’s state newspapers are insisting that “some foreign news agencies [have] broadcast false information… that the Government has been rejecting and preventing aids for storm victims”, it’s not difficult to find specific complaints that it has been doing just that. Not only overseas donors but also those from within the country are encountering more obstacles. Continue reading

Preventable deaths, global consequences

(ความตายที่ป้องกันได้ ส่งผลกระเทือนทั่วโลก)

As predicted, survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which ravaged lower Burma on May 2 and 3, are no longer surviving.

Not only in the worst-hit delta areas but also in places close to Rangoon people are suffering from illnesses brought on by dirty water, lack of food and exposure to the elements. On Wednesday, a resident speaking to the Voice of America Burmese Service described the situation:

“In Thanlyin, 43-year-old Ko Aung Kyaw Moe died from cholera, as did a small girl in another village on the ninth. She was in the morgue. Also in Twente, I heard it of two girls. Then in Hpayagyigone village of Thanlyin an entire family of five died. And there’s around seven or eight sick people in the hospital.”

This account may or may not be fully accurate, but it is anyhow backed by many other similar reports from the disaster zones. Together they affirm that people are today dying of what can only be described as the most preventable of deaths — deaths due not to a lack of knowhow, resources or concern, but to an excess of obduracy in a military regime with a record of unremitting and shameless disregard for basic human rights and absolute minimum universal standards. Continue reading

Corpse robbers and angry villagers

(Latest roundup of some news on Cyclone Nargis in Burmese language media)

There have been a few reports about corpses of cyclone victims found with ears and fingers cut off, apparently to take the jewelry. Now the Yoma 3 News Service has alleged that soldiers of Infantry Division 66 are among those responsible. According to an eyewitness from Bogalay who spoke by phone,

“Division 66 officers and soldiers are removing everything from the bodies of the dead. If wearing bracelets, they’re cutting off the hands.”

The witness also accused the troops of refusing to allow relatives of victims from Kyachaung, Satkyun, Ayardan and Padekaw villages from meeting with their loved ones, and said that as they had sold drinking water that was sent for the survivors in those places from a betel nut shop at the Irrawaddy Pier for 500 Kyat (about 45 US cents) per bottle, so the survivors have been drinking any water that they could find.

Meanwhile, the efforts of private citizens have continued to keep people alive where officialdom has been busy apparently trying to do the opposite. According to a doctor who visited Twente who also spoke to Yoma 3,

“The villages that we reached don’t even have food. They’ve made huts to stay in out of old thatch. It’s an unhappy scene. Even in the places so near to Rangoon sufficient aid has still not arrived. They’re all expecting it. Nobody had come. As there’s water in the hand pump wells that’s not such a worry but there’s quite a rice problem.”

In Twente section 8 bore the brunt of the storm and was destroyed, while about 90 per of the buildings in the township suffered damage. At present there are five temporary sites set up to house people at monasteries and schools. Zinc roofing is being sold for 4900 Kyat (about US$4) per sheet, not given out.

Around Twente town there are 95 village tracts all of which have suffered damage and are in need of help, the doctor said. At Panhlaing the sluice gates are shut and there is an outbreak of disease. In some villages monasteries are housing and feeding people but have enough food supplies for only three or four days.

Similar conditions are reported in Htanmanaing, of Kawhmu Township, Rangoon, which was hit hard by the storm too. Of the 540 houses there before, only ten are still intact. However, as the water supply there also was destroyed, children are drinking from dirty water sources and getting stomach ailments. There are no medicines for them when they become sick, a resident said to Yoma 3. As the people there too had received no help so far, a villager had husked the remainder of his paddy stock (being kept for planting next season) and distributed it to the hungry. Continue reading

Disease spreading in Laputta & Bogalay

(Update on Burmese language news reports after Cyclone Nargis)

Fears that delays in delivering aid to cyclone survivors could result in widespread illness and a second wave of deaths are now being realised.

According to the Yoma 3 News Service (Thailand), diarrhoea is spreading among the cyclone victims in Bogalay due to a lack of adequate assistance to a region still covered with decomposing corpses over a week after the cyclone. That report says that there are around 4000 refugees still in Bogalay town and around 100 survivors are continuing to arrive from surrounding villages each day. A report from RFA, however, says that there are three sites in Bogalay each housing 8-10,000 people.

In Laputta, children have reportedly started dying from cholera due to the lack of clean drinking water. Ma Win, a resident of ward 10 in the town told Yoma 3 by phone that

“We’ve received no aid at all. At this moment there are food problems and especially water problems. When it rains we are getting rain water. Now as all the drinking water sources are destroyed, children have been getting diarrhoea and from that cholera has broken out and more than a few children have died.”

As thousands of refugees have come into Laputta town from surrounding villages, the monasteries and hospitals are stretched and some have also been put into houses.

Despite the claims of government media that officials are responding promptly, people in Laputta are getting no help, Ma Win insisted: Continue reading

“Only three in ten are alive”

(Latest update of Burmese language reports on Cyclone Nargis)

One of the areas worst affected by the cyclone was Laputta, in the Irrawaddy Delta. A resident of the township speaking to Yoma 3 News (Thailand) said that,

“The township has 16 village tracts. There are at least five villages per tract, and over 200 villages in total. People coming from the villages said that out of these villagers, for every ten, only around three are alive.”

According to Yoma 3 sources, although the government has put the official death toll in Laputta at over a thousand it is in fact much higher than that and to date no help has arrived.

A villager who came into town said

“There’s work on the Thingangyi-Laputta Road but cars can’t travel it yet. Along every road, the Kyarnikan village roads, whatever road, there are so many dead they’re uncountable. For this reason many more in the villages could die. My mother, father, brothers and sisters are all dead. I can’t do anything. I’m left all alone.” Continue reading

47 townships, 22,000 dead?!

According to DVB and other sources, the latest state-run media reports put the revised death toll from Cyclone Nargis at least 22,000. DVB says that this figure was given on the radio today. To date the state-run news has not been updated on the government website.

State media has also announced that the May 10 referendum on a new constitution will be postponed in 47 townships until May 24 and will go ahead in the rest of the country.

The 47 townships as given by DVB are: Continue reading